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3750RE: [existlist] Re: one, two, three, 7000

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  • Eduard Alf
    Oct 3, 2001
    • 0 Attachment
      The price of a human life is variable in more ways than just the amount of
      money that one might contribute. It may also depend upon the closeness that
      you have to the victim and your own circumstance. For example, if you lived
      in a down and out part of town, you might be inclined to give a greater
      portion of your personal savings to help others, than say a rich person who
      lives elsewhere and is not aware of the existence of others [perhaps by
      choice]. On the other hand you may have become sufficiently hardened to
      only look after yourself. The holocaust showed that the western world can
      equally see life as cheap. The starvation of millions of Ukrainians in the
      1930s is another example. I do not include the bombing of Japan and Germany
      during world war 2, because this was a war measure for which the life being
      weighed was that of an Allied soldier [whether this is a correct stand has
      been open to significant arguement].

      I do not believe that one can say that a human life in the third world is
      simply that of a 20 dollar bill. It would again depend upon whose life is
      involved. But you may have a point on a general basis.

      A case in point is the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India where toxic gas
      escaped from a Union Carbide Plant. Some 6000 people died and perhaps
      something like 250,000 injured. Yet, I doubt that anyone lost much sleep
      over that and efforts have been made to have the lawsuit played out in India
      rather than the US, since the compensations packages are generally of less
      value there. So one could well ask if your table really reflects the
      situation or are we saying that the millions of dollars per life is really
      that specific to Americans. The politically correct answer is "no" yet we
      all know the reality.

      my point on the 7000 was only to use this as a prompt for some action. I
      did not anticipate that we would get into a discussion of what this number
      might mean as some sort of transition level. We did not declare a war when
      only a handful of people died in the earlier bombing of the World Trade
      Centre. So perhaps there is a transition level but I would be reluctant to
      try to identify exactly what it might be.

      I am watching a old rerun of Star trek. Captain Kirk is in love with a
      woman who he meets when they time travel to earth in search of McCoy. They
      find out that she will later become a prime advocate for keeping the US out
      of world war two, yet she is also forecasted to die in an accident. If she
      does not die, Germany will have time to develop the atomic bomb. So Spock
      holds Kirk back when he tries to save her from an oncoming truck. This is a
      case of allowing one to die for the benefit of millions. Yet that decision
      was made by Spock who is only half human. Could one say that the Captain is
      in the end less human than Spock in only looking to his own self and his
      personal desires?

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Jim Aiden [mailto:livewild@...]
      Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2001 1:17 PM
      To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [existlist] Re: one, two, three, 7000

      >> just because life is calculated by insurance company to be worth so
      & so doesn't mean it IS so & so. Such a priceless and truly invaluable
      thing cannot be calculated. <<

      I usually am in agreement with you James but as someone interested
      in Existentialism your response somewhat surprises me.

      Basic Existentialist tenet...

      Every decision in life comes at a cost.

      A pure existentialist has to attach a price to life. I agree with
      you somewhat in spirit and what one if our goals should be, but must
      conceed I do not know of a way yet of not attaching a price to life.
      Any limited resource we take from one place comes at the cost of
      another. Pure math of the universe.

      Here are some examples that might illustate better what I am
      saying. It is an easy and noble thing to say life is priceless, but if
      one were in a position to make such decisions, the arrow may fall

      Assumption: You have 100 million dollars in your bank account. (this
      is not really necessary because the options apply right now no matter
      how much money you have)

      a. You can spend it all investing in pharmaceutical companies cancer
      fighting research that may not save even one life but also may save
      millions later. (and people profit from this)

      b. You can spend it all buying food and medicine for the dying in
      third world nations. (Immediate relief - Usually associated with Saint
      option but not many long term benefits.)

      c. You can donate it to the Sept.11th Fund. (These people are
      suffering but by no means in threat of starvation)

      d. You may spend it on yourself your own family, your own friends and
      give some to charities of various sorts. (most common option)

      Every dollar you keep in your own pocket, potentially could be used
      for saving lives. I can't but help see that in a very real way, any
      money that I keep (beyond just staying alive) I have in a small way
      choosen someone's life over sacrificing that money. This is a very
      painful thought for me and why I can see the allure of ideologies and
      religions that 'suggest' sharing.

      Does anyone have the stomach (or any statistics) to put a dollar value
      to a human life? I loath to think about it but in practice I think
      there isn't even one price. It depends who you are, where you live,
      your importance to the world, and who your friends are. I don't
      personally agree with these numbers below (out of my head but further
      illustraiting) but this is how I think our society values lives
      somewhat. I believe the billions we spend annually on ourselves versus
      others will attest to this. I'm not making a moral statement, just an
      observation. Perhaps it is the best way to help others over the long
      term, is by significantly helping oneself (Don't ask me where to draw
      the line). By far, most charity and medicine in the world does come
      from the countries with the economic/political structure we have.

      Developed (important)..... tens of millions
      Developed (middle)........ a couple of million
      Developed (poor).......... a million or so
      Third world............... $20

      (There also seems to be a coorrelation between how much an individual
      produces and what their life is worth. Despite loud proclaimations
      otherwise, even communist and religious countries attach a price to
      life....generally a little more equal but far lower in value in fact)

      I do not think placing a dollar value on life is very honourable or
      desirable (I find it belittles life). Despite the philosophical moral
      dilemma though, in practice under the current conditions, social
      democratic capitalism seems to work best to prevent suffering than the
      metaphysical and theoretical offerings so far suggested.

      Tough choices. When something better appears, sign me up.



      Perhaps one day technology and knowledge might one day free us of
      this moral burden.

      --- In existlist@y..., "james tan" <tyjfk@h...> wrote:
      > james.
      > From: "Jim Aiden" <livewild@h...>
      > Reply-To: existlist@y...
      > To: existlist@y...
      > Subject: [existlist] Re: one, two, three, 7000
      > Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2001 14:02:17 -0000
      > Our insurance and healthcare companies do it all the time.
      > _________________________________________________________________
      > Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

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